Home page All episodes sorted by rank All episodes sorted alphabetically All episodes sorted by writer All episodes sorted by director All episodes sorted by season Episodes with the most polarized opinions Episodes largely forgotten by fans Best and worst streaks of episodes An analysis of what makes episodes great Buffy writers sorted by the quality of their episodes Buffy directors sorted by the quality of their episodes Seasons of Buffy sorted by the quality of their episodes Buffy characters sorted by their possible contribution to episode quality Predicted episode quality based on writer, director, characters, and when aired Episodes that are much better or much worse than predicted Tastes in episodes Episodes ranked by taste Seasons ranked by taste Characters ranked by taste Writers ranked by taste Directors ranked by taste How the results on this site were obtained Ranking important contributors Reviews and Essays Frequently Asked Questions The links page Go to the sitemap

INNOCENCE (ep #2.14)

(a.k.a. Emotional Resonance and Rocket Launchers)

Written by: Joss Whedon
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia Chase
David Boreanaz as Angel
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Starring: Seth Green as Oz
Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers
Robia LaMorte as Jenny Calendar
Brian Thompson as The Judge
Ryan Francis as Soldier
Vincent Schiavelli as Uncle Enyos (Special Guest Star)
James Marsters as Spike
Juliet Landau as Drusilla
Co-Starring: James Lurie as Teacher
Carla Madden as Woman
Parry Shen as Student

Plot Summary

Sex with Buffy turned Angel into an evil soulless monster.

Plot Details

The episode opened with Spike worrying about the fact that Buffy and Angel escaped with knowledge of the Judge's presence. He was also frustrated with the fact that the Judge was busy "preparing" rather than going out and killing. Drusilla was less concerned.

A woman noticed Angel collapsed in the alley. She went to see if he needed any help. He repaid her kindness by biting her.

Buffy returned home that morning. Fortunately, when her mother realized that she was home, she was far enough in the house to pretend that she was coming down for breakfast.

Xander arrived in the library to find that nobody found any vampires importing boxes of Judge parts to Sunnydale. When he found out that Buffy had not checked in yet, he and Willow wanted to form a rescue party, despite the wiser admonitions from Giles, Cordelia, and Jenny. Fortunately, Buffy arrived before Xander and Willow went on their suicide mission.

Angel decided to pay a visit to Spike and Drusilla. After a bit of banter, the Judge touched him and declared that there is no humanity in Angel, much to Spike and Drusilla's delight.

Xander and Cordelia had a discussion in the library stacks. She was hurt that he was rushing off to get killed saving Buffy when she did not think that he would do so for her. He offered to kiss and make up, but she was only interested in the first part. Unfortunately, Willow saw caught them. She was hurt and ran away. Cordelia was hurt when Xander chased after Willow.

Buffy started to arrive home, but realized that the next scene would play much better in Angel's bedroom so she went there. A conveniently topless Angel proceeded to say all sorts of hurtful things to Buffy.

Uncle Enyos gave a pretentious lecture on vengeance to Jenny Calendar. He explained that, if Angel experienced one moment of true happiness, he would lose his soul. Apparently, he had his one moment and is now evil.

Willow returned to the school. She is still very hurt but understands that defeating the Judge is more important than her feelings. When discussing their lack of progress, Xander came up with a plan. Unfortunately, the lights went out before he could tell his plan to Willow. Even more unfortunately, Angel arrived.

Willow and Xander did not realize that Angel was evil, so they trusted him when he asked Xander to fetch the others, leaving Willow alone with him. Fortunately, Xander did not trust him enough and returned just as Jenny warned Willow to step away from Angel. Angel still managed to grab Willow by the throat. A brief standoff was interrupted when Buffy arrived. This distracted Angel enough for Xander to sneak up on him with Jenny's cross and rescue Willow.

Giles was quite upset to add Angel's evil to the list of problems that they needed to deal with. He started to question Buffy on what happened to cause him to turn evil, which inadvertently made Buffy feel even worse. Only Willow figured out what happened between Buffy and Angel.

Xander remembered that he had a plan. He would not tell anyone what the plan was because Cordelia would refuse to go along. However, it did involve Cordelia wearing something trashy(ier) than what she was wearing. It also required Oz's van.

Spike was not happy that Angel was content with hurting Buffy rather than killing her. Drusilla understood that hurting Buffy is his plan.

A tearful Buffy curled into bed, which was a good excuse for another dream. It started with a flashback to the sex scene and then jumped to a daytime funeral. Angel told her that she needed to know what to see, which was Jenny dressed in black.

The next day, Buffy went to school, stormed into Jenny's classroom, grabbed her by the throat, and asked if she know what would happen. Jenny made a full confession and explained the curse. Buffy demanded that Jenny curse Angel again, but she said that she did not know how. Buffy demanded to be brought to someone who could do something.

In a very deceptive edit, we see Uncle Enyos hear a door open and say that he knew that Buffy would make Jenny bring her to him. He was surprised and alarmed to find Angel instead.

That night, Xander, Cordelia, Willow, and Oz drove up to an army base. Xander and Cordelia sneaked in and almost entered the armory when a guard interrupted. Xander told the guard that he was sneaking Cordelia in to get her "hot and bothered" by the weaponry. He promised not to tell the colonel about the guard's lapses if the guard lets them in the armory. Apparently, Xander was taking advantage of the fact that he still remembered all of his army training from when he was turned into a soldier in "Halloween."

In the van, Willow and Oz had a conversation about how they entertain themselves without cable and what Oz thinks about in class. One hint: he does not think about class. This conversation was interrupted when Xander and Cordelia were ready to drop off their "package."

Jenny, Buffy, and Giles arrived at Enyos's hotel room only to find his body and the message, "Was it good for you too?" written in blood. This convinced Buffy that she needed to kill Angel.

That evening, Angel, Drusilla, and the Judge left, presumably to kill people.

The next day, Giles opened the box that Xander stole from the army. Jenny came to offer her assistance, but Buffy, with Giles's backing, told her to leave.

Buffy, Giles, Xander, Willow, Cordelia, and Oz went to the factory to carry out Xander's plan, but found it empty. Of course, they did not look very hard or they would have found Spike hiding. With the Bronze closed, Buffy wondered where the Judge would attack. Oz had an idea.

The Judge strolled into the local shopping mall and disintegrated the first extra that he found. Angel, Drusilla, and four minion vampires followed. The judge then proceeded to shoot orange visual effect rays into all the patrons until Buffy shot him with a crossbow bolt. This got the Judge's attention and caused the visual effects to disappear. Xander then handed her the rocket launcher that he stole from the army. The Judge was curious, but Angel and Drusilla realized what was going on. They leapt to safety just as the rocket blew the Judge into many pieces.

Buffy had the rest pick up Judge pieces while she went after Angel. They had a fight, but she could not bring herself to kill him. She settled for a kick in the testicles instead.

Giles drove Buffy home and warned her to expect Angel to strike again. Buffy felt very guilty, but Giles did not think that blame was warranted. Buffy then proceeded to have a quiet birthday celebration with her mother.

The Good

I will defer to the Importance section for a discussion on how this episode turned Buffy from a solid genre show to one of the best shows ever to air on television. Instead, I will focus on specific aspects of this episode.

David Boreanaz has grown as an actor since "Welcome to the Hellmouth." His problem was that so have Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alyson Hannigan, and they had huge head starts. To torture a metaphor, he would a decent sized fish in most ponds, but he is swimming in the ocean. However, he is at his best when he is playing a villain. He does a good job at portraying a figure of menace without becoming too much of a cartoon.

The destruction of the Judge is one of the most satisfying kills in the entire show. I am especially fond of everyone's reactions. Angel and Drusilla realized at the last second that advances in weaponry may make the Judge's "no weapon forged" immunity obsolete. The Judge, meanwhile, has no concept of technology and simply wondered what the rocket launcher did.

The Bad

I would have to nit-pick to find anything wrong with this episode. The Imponderables section explains why I think Xander should have fired the rocket launcher and points out problems in continuity.

Overall Rank: 6

Action: 5

There is not much action until the end when Buffy destroyed the Judge and had a fight with Angel.

Comedy: 1

Any episode that Joss Whedon writes will have humorous lines. However, humor is only an afterthought here.

Drama: 10

Much of the tension of this episode came from finding that a former ally (and, in Buffy's case, a former lover) is now evil and a threat to all of them.

There was a tense scene in the beginning of the first act when most of the characters were worried for Buffy and Angel. Xander and Willow foolishly wanted to form a rescue party despite the warnings from cooler heads.

Willow learned that Xander and Cordelia were kissing and was very hurt. She at least willing to put aside those feelings for the good of the group (and the rest of the world).

Angel was very successful in hurting Buffy the evening after their sex.

Romance: 6

Buffy's morning after (technically, evening after) losing her virginity was not pleasant.

Xander and Cordelia's relationship is now in the open.

Character Development: 9

Angel is now evil. It appears that his soul would be lost if he experienced a moment of true happiness. Having experienced this moment with Buffy, he is no longer burdened. He appears to be a rather sadistic villain, more interested in inflicting pain than in killing.

Willow is still in love with Xander despite her new relationship with Oz. Despite her pain from seeing Xander kiss Cordelia, she was still willing to do her part for the group.

Jenny finally told the others what she knows. Unfortunately, she knows too little and told them too late.

Importance: 10

Up to this point, Buffy was a decent show with a few very good episodes and one great episode ("Prophecy Girl"). With "Surprise" and "Innocence," Buffy becomes a great show. The stories become too complicated and involving to be resolved in one episode. Actions have consequences far into the future. The writers and actors are finding much higher expectations and meet those expectations. The show that aired over the first 24 episodes would be remembered as a good genre show, but it is the show that airs from now to the end that is remembered as one of the greatest shows in television history without any qualifications.

Other, more mundane events that would be important include the loss of Angel's soul and his defection to Drusilla and Spike's camp, the revelation of Xander and Cordelia's relationship, the advancement of Willow and Oz's relationship, and the revelation that Xander still has his military knowledge from when he was a soldier in "Halloween."

Finally, this episode marked a move to a new night. Instead of merely holding the audience from 7th Heaven on Mondays, Buffy became the lead show on Tuesdays, a new night for the WB network.

Most Valuable Player: Xander

Whenever possible, I try to give the MVP and the Sherlock Holmes awards to different characters. However, nobody approached Xander, giving him a sweep in the desirable awards for this episode. His plan was crucial for defeating Angel. Furthermore, his rescue of Willow from Angel would merit consideration even if he did not come up with a plan.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Xander

Xander both figured out that the Judge would be vulnerable to modern weaponry and figured out a plan to obtain such weaponry. Oz gets a little credit for figuring our where the Judge would strike given that the Bronze was closed, and Willow was the first to figure out that Buffy's having sex with Angel caused him to turn evil.

Goat of the Week: Uncle Enyos

I could see giving the award to Angel, Drusilla, or the Judge depending on who I deemed most responsible for the Judge's destruction. However, I do not give this award simply for being defeated by a superior opponent. In this case, Buffy had the superior firepower. Buffy also merits a little consideration for letting Angel go at the end. It is not clear that she could have killed him if she tried, but he did look like he was disabled when she kicked him in the crotch. Instead, the award goes to Uncle Enyos for withholding important information from Jenny that could have stopped Angel.

Random Commentary

I sort of figured out the solution to killing the Judge before Xander did. I did not think specifically of a rocket launcher and did not think of how to obtain one. I did recognize that there have been many advances in weaponry in the centuries since the Judge was dismembered and that the "no weapon forged" rule might not apply anymore.

Now that Angel has lost his soul, many fans have taken to calling him "Angelus," his name before regaining his soul. I understand why. The fans liked him and have a hard time dealing with the fact that he is now a sadistic killer. They would prefer to believe that this killer is a different character with a different name from the one that they loved. I will continue to call him "Angel" for two reasons. First, nobody on the show uses the name "Angelus" to distinguish him from the character we have seen before this episode. Second, I find more resonance with the fact that we are seeing two parts of the same character.

Although not all fire suppression systems are alike, most sprinkler systems spray fire retardant instead of water. Also, in order to ensure that the retardant is conserved, it is sprayed only over the fire rather than over the entire building. The sprinkler system in this episode sprayed water over the entire building.


Many commentators wonder why Angel's curse would contain a clause that would cause the soul to leave one he experiences a moment of true happiness. I have a few explanations:

  1. It is probably safe to assume that logic plays no part of this curse. Jenny, herself, observed that this was madness. The desire for vengeance overrode everything, including common sense.
  2. Magic has the danger of becoming an deus ex machina. To counter this, strong magic often has strong consequences on this show. It is possible that this part of the curse is part of the consequences of the magic involved.
  3. Angel's last victim (allegedly) until this episode died about 100 years before. Once those who knew her died, she could easily be forgotten. Perhaps an important part of the curse was a requirement that the clan constantly monitor Angel. This way, the victim's death can affect the clan for generations to come.

Why did Buffy fire the rocket launcher instead of Xander? Xander already knew how to use it, and Buffy would be more useful guarding Xander from Angel, Drusilla, or any minion vampires while he fired at the Judge. The only reason for Buffy to fire it was that she is the title character of the show.

To me, one of the great imponderables in the series is how anybody can resist Willow—except for Xander, but only because he knew her when they were little children. Oz is the guilty party here. We are supposed to believe that someone with 18 year old hormones could possibly resist Willow's advances in the van. Did the van lack linoleum?

If we assume that all scenes are in chronological order, then there is a severe continuity problem in this episode. Here are the relevant scenes in order:

Most of the commentary on these continuity errors focuses on the time lag between Xander coming up with his plan and actually stealing the rocket launcher. However, this could have been explained if Xander asked Cordelia to meet at Willow's "at this time tomorrow" rather than "in a half hour." However, it did not make sense for Angel, Drusilla, and the Judge to take 24 hours to get to the mall or for Buffy, Jenny, and Giles to take so long to get to Enyos's room.

DVD Extras

Innocence Script is exactly what it says it is. Unlike with "Reptile Boy," this was a script of a good episode and was useful in confirming for me that Ryan Francis did play the guard outside the armory.

Interview with Joss Whedon Joss Whedon discussed filming the scene in which Angel is cruel to Buffy. They first tried to film it outside Buffy's house, but it did not work until he moved it to Angel's bedroom. He also discussed the metaphor of "I slept with somebody and he doesn't call me anymore."

Innocence Commentary by Writer and Director Joss Whedon This is a Joss Whedon commentary, so it is worthwhile to listen to. Unlike the commentaries for "Welcome to the Hellmouth" and "The Harvest," this commentary focused primarily on the episode itself and spent little time discussing the show as a whole. There is a major spoiler for episode 2.17, a minor spoiler for an early fourth season episode, and a minor spoiler through the end of the show on a specific thing that will not happen. Insights include:

Memorable Dialogue

"It's interesting to me that preparing looks a great bit like sitting on your ass. When do we destroy the world already." Spike

"The bus depot was a total washout, and, may I say, what a lovely place to spend the night. What a vibrant cross section of Americana." Xander
"No vampires transporting boxes?" Giles
"No, but a 400-pound wino offered to wash my hair." Xander

"I'm upset, and I can't think of a mean word right now, but that's what you are, and we're going in the factory." Willow

"I'm naming all the stars." Drusilla
"You can't see the stars, love. That's the ceiling. Also, it's day." Spike
"I can see them, but I've named them all the same name, and there's terrible confusion." Drusilla
"Can you see any further? Do you know what happens to Angel?" Spike
"Well, he moves to New York and tries to fulfill that Broadway dream. It's tough slaying, but, one day, he's working in the chorus when the big star twists her ankle." Angel
"You don't give up, do you?" Spike
"As long as there's injustice in the world, as long as scum, like you, is walking, well rolling, in the streets, I'll be around." Angel

"Destroying the world, great. I'm more interested in the slayer." Angel
"Well, she's in the world, so that should work out." Spike

"She made me feel like a human being. That's not the kind of thing you just forgive." Angel

"You were too busy rushing off to die for your beloved Buffy. You'd never die for me." Cordelia

"Can't we just kiss and make up?" Xander
"I don't want to make up, but I'm OK with the other part." Cordelia

"I knew it! Well, not knew it in the sense of having the slightest idea, but I knew there was something I didn't know. You two were fighting way too much. It isn't natural." Willow

"I know it's weird." Xander
"Weird? It's against all laws of God and man. It's Cordelia. Remember the We Hate Cordelia Club of which you are the treasurer?" Willow
"Look, I was gonna tell you." Xander
"Gee, what stopped you? Could it be shame?" Willow
"Alright, let's overreact; shall we? Willow, we were just kissing. It doesn't mean that much." Xander
"No, it just means that you'd rather be with someone you hate than be with me." Willow

"It's what: bells ringing? Fireworks? A dulcet choir of pretty little birdies? Come on, Buffy, it's not like I've never been there before." Angel

"It's not really the kind of message you tell. It sort of involves finding the bodies of all your friends." Angel

"What are we going to do?" Cordelia
"I'm leaning toward blind panic myself." Giles

"Giles, shut up." Willow

"This is great. An unkillable demon is in town; Angel's joined his team; the slayer's a basket case. I'd say we've hit bottom." Cordelia
"I have a plan." Xander
"Oh, no, here's a lower place." Cordelia

"Now, I know you haven't been in the game for a while, mate, but we still do kill people." Spike

"So does looking at guns really make girls wanna have sex? That's scary." Cordelia
"Yeah, I guess." Xander
"Well, does looking at guns make you wanna have sex?" Cordelia
"I'm seventeen. Looking at linoleum makes me wanna have sex." Xander

"So, do you guys steal weapons from the army a lot?" Oz
"Well, we don't have cable, so we have to make our own fun." Willow

"Sometimes, when I'm sitting in class, I not thinking about class, because that would never happen. I think about kissing you, and it's like everything stops. It's like freeze frame. Willow kissage. Oh, I'm not gonna kiss you." Oz
"What? But freeze frame." Willow
"Well, to the casual observer, it would appear that you were trying to make your friend Xander jealous or even the score or something, and that's on the empty side. See, in my fantasy, when I'm kissing you, you're kissing me." Oz

"Don't you look spiffy!" Angel
"Spiffy?" The Judge

"You're a fool. No weapon forged can stop me." The Judge
"That was then. This is now." Buffy [as she pulls out the rocket launcher]
"What's that do?" The Judge

"Pieces, we get the pieces. Our job sucks!" Cordelia

"Do you want me to wag my finger at you and say you acted rashly? You did, and I can. I know that you loved him, and he has proven more than once that he loved you. You couldn't have known what would happen. The coming months are gonna be hard, I suspect, on all of us, but, if it's guilt you're looking for, Buffy, I'm not your man. All you will get from me is my support and my respect." Giles

Characters in Peril


Evil Escaped

Police and Guns

Buffy and the Law

Spoiler Questions

Highlight the space after each question to find the answer. It is strongly recommended that you do not do so if you have not seen episodes through the episode indicated.

This page was last modified on November 8, 2012